The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Stephen Covey

Summary in 100 words or less

The three habits to develop yourself: Be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and learn to prioritize what's important. The three habits to improve your relationships with others: Always think win-win, seek first to understand before to be understood, and work on synergy. Lastly, sharpen the saw by committing to lifelong learning and growth.


My Highlights

No enterprise can become or remain truly great without a core set of principles to preserve, to build upon, to serve as an anchor, to provide guidance in the face of an ever-changing world. At the same time, no company can remain great without stimulating progress—change, renewal, improvement, and the pursuit of extraordinary goals.

Leadership is communicating others’ worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

Nice common human challenges we face: fear and insecurity, instant gratification, blame and victimism, hopelessness, lack of life balance, selfishness, the hunger to be understood, conflict and differences, and personal stagnation.

There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living. —David Starr Jordan

Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are (realities) and maps of the way thing should be (values).

Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.

The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view.

If we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.

Borrowing strength builds weakness. It builds weakness in the borrower because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done. It builds weakness on the person forced to acquiesce, stunting the development of independent reasoning, growth, and internal discipline. And finally, it builds weakness in the relationship. Fear replaces cooperation, and both people involved become more arbitrary and defensive.

Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm, the what to do and the why. Skill is the how to do. And desire is the motivation, the want to do. In order to make something a habit in our lives, we have to have all three.

No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal.

We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts. The very fact that we can think about these things separates us from them and from the animal world. Self-awareness enables s to stand apart and examine even the way we “see” ourselves—our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness.

A fundamental principle about the nature of man: Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.

Proactivity means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Anytime we think the problem is “out there,” that thought is the problem. We empower what’s out there to control us. The change paradigm is “outside-in”—what’s out there has to change before we can change. The proactive approach is to change from the inside-out: to be different, and by being different, to effect positive change in what’s out there.

The most fundamental application of “begin with the end in mind” is to begin with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined.

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

The most effective way I know to begin with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed. It focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.

By centering our lives on correct principles, we create a solid foundation for the development of the four life-support factors: security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. —Goethe

Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides what “first things” are, it’s management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, carrying it out.

The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves. Rather than focusing on things and time, focus on preserving and enhancing relationships and on accomplishing results.

The two factors that define an activity are urgent and important. Urgent means it requires immediate attention. We react to urgent matters. Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals.

You simply can’t think efficiency with people. You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things.

Frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities.

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are. If our words and actions come from superficial human relations techniques rather than from our own inner core, others will sense that duplicity. We simply won’t be able to create and sustain the foundation necessary for effective interdependence.

When expectations are not clear and shared, people begin to become emotionally involved and simple misunderstandings become compounded, turning into personality clashes and communication breakdowns.

Win/WIn is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win/Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena.

Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration—the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.

In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.

When you can present your own ideas clearly, specifically, visually, and most importantly, contextually—in the context of a deep understanding of other people’s paradigms and concerns—you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.

When properly understood, synergy is the highest activity in all life—the true test and manifestation of all the other habits put together. Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three or more.

Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy—the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.

The last habit is taking the time to sharpen the saw. It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature—physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

Renewal is the principle—and the process—that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.

Moving along the upward spiral requires us to learn, commit, and do on increasingly higher planes. We deceive ourselves if we think that any one of these is sufficient. To keep progressing, we must learn, commit, and do—learn, commit, and do—and learn, commit, and do again.

More book notes

Night School
The Goal
The Hour between Dog and Wolf
The Fast Diet
Manage Your Day-to-Day

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